When Mike Moore took over leadership of Minor League Baseball as the 10th president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), he hit the ground running -- and then some. On his first day in office, he took the first step toward a major makeover of the leadership of Minor League Baseball. It was a step that many feel is the most important change to the organization since it was formed in 1901.
Moore called for a constitutional convention in Dallas six weeks later to consider revisions to the National Association Agreement (NAA), the bylaws that define the relationship between the NA and its member leagues. It was an agreement that had changed little since the NA first began.
The first result of the new NAA was to change the NAPBL to more of a "corporate" structure in which the president, as governing authority, would work closely on policy and direction with a Board of Trustees (BOT), composed of one club owner from each domestic league, and the Council of League Presidents (COLP). It would lead, eventually, to a reorganization of the NAPBL and its mission in the industry. Prior to this time, the president had worked with an executive committee that was made up primarily of a league president from each classification.
Moore had campaigned for the presidency on a platform of reorganization, with an extensive background of watching the NA office operate from both inside and outside. He spent 18 years (1971-88) as co-owner and operator of the Tampa team in the Florida State League, then moved into the NA office as chief administrative officer in 1988, working with president Sal Artiaga.
"I told all the leagues, as I went around the country, that I felt the industry could not move forward and become what it was capable of becoming under the system that was then in place," Moore recalled. "It was just too cumbersome in the modern world. We needed a new, more modern structure that fit today's world. Communication is very important. The executive committee, with a league president from each classification, was not a large enough body to come to the table with all the ideas that we needed to consider.
"Now, when any of our leagues get together for any of their meetings, there are two people with direct responsibility to feed back information to us, the league president through COLP, and a club owner through the BOT. Both groups are contributing to the operation of the NA office and the industry."
While the move to the new system began almost immediately after his induction as president, it had been a long time in planning, going back many years to Moore's days running the Tampa team, where he became friends with Bob Sowers.
"He was a fascinating man," says Moore. "He had been with one of the largest advertising agencies in the world in New York City. He was a big fan and when he retired, he bought the West Palm Beach team and ran it. He talked a lot about what he considered the tremendous potential of the NA and what it should -- and could -- do if it was organized properly."
"Those ideas were the roots of my plan," said Moore. "I got more input on how to go about it. I already had a lot of it in mind over perhaps a 10-year period. Once I went to work with Sal and saw what the NA office did, it really came to a focus in my mind. At that time, the NA office was basically a record-keeping place, dealing with player contracts and rules, and that was where its economic support came from. I felt that those activities were not what we should be relying on -- especially since they were not likely to stay in our office." (Those functions are all now handled out of the Office of the Commissioner in New York.)
"Going back maybe 10 years before I became president, the value of franchises was slowly increasing. At one time, you could literally buy a club by taking over the club's debt. Now people were beginning to spend money to buy clubs. They were buying because of their love for the game -- that was a plus -- but they also wanted to look at things in a businesslike fashion. We gave them an avenue to have input in how the organization operated. The BOT let owners have direct input. That let us go to other things, such as advertising and marketing and providing more service to our clubs," says Moore. "These were the things that were much more important to our clubs."
This led Minor League Baseball to a whole new ballgame and, correspondingly, to phenomenal growth, including in some areas that nay-sayers insisted couldn't be reached. National marketing, for instance, and a national licensing program that has Minor League Baseball merchandise, once strictly a local "sell," in stores and Web sites all over the country.
From a humble beginning, retail merchandise sales have averaged about $40 million annually since 1993. The NA provides a central office to let companies work with any size group of teams with marketing programs, pumping other millions of dollars into the industry.
"We found a way to make it work," Moore says, proudly. "Baseball is a game of adjustments, both on and off the field. From my days working in the NA office, I knew that the days of the NA president being all-encompassing with one person making all the decisions in every area were over. It took more than one person to run everything. You need to hire good, qualified people and let them do their jobs if you're going to get things done. The various departments that we have added are there to assist our clubs in areas that increase values, provide growth and create more interest among fans."
Interest among fans had never been higher. Regular-season attendance during the 2001 season, when Minor League Baseball was celebrating its 100th birthday, reached 38.8 million fans, the second highest total in history, at the time, and was accomplished by just 176 teams. The only larger attendance total was in 1949, when there were 448 teams that drew 39.7 milllion fans at a time when there were far fewer competitors for the entertainment dollar. And this became an ongoing phenomenon, as attendance increased steadily throughout Moore's three terms in office. In his final year, Minor League Baseball set a new all-time attendance record, as 42.8 million fans passed through the gates.
There was a corresponding increase in the value of franchises, and in the construction of outstanding new stadiums. The Minors have welcomed 106 new stadiums since 1990, with three new ballparks in 2008. There was also a two-fold increase in net income between 1994 and 2006, with increases in ticket sales again in 2007 and 2008.
In addition to the growth of revenue areas, the support field grew, as well. Minor League Basebal added two subsidiary companies to help the industry. Beginning in 1998, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp (PBUC) was formed to operate and maintain the umpire program for all of the Minor Leagues, helping lead aspiring umpires toward the Major Leagues. Off the field, the Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities (PBEO) office does much the same thing for hopefuls looking for office jobs in the baseball industry.
Minor League Baseball has also branched out into the political arena. That was another plus from Moore's campaign for the presidency in 1991. Another of the candidates for the job was Stan Brand, an attorney in Washington, D.C.
"Stan truly had a great interest in Minor League Baseball. With his Washington background and Congressional connections, which I felt were very important, he brought a lot of things to the table that I didn't have, and that our office needed," says Moore, who hired Brand as special counsel and later convinced him to join the NA office as vice president in charge of government relations activities.
Ten years into his presidency, Moore's goals were "to continue our growth and continue our position of low cost family entertainment. We have to maintain our involvement within the community, so that people will want to participate and want Minor League Baseball to be part of their community.
"And we have to continue to work on our relationship with our partners in Major League Baseball. That was another of my first goals when I took over. We didn't have a good relationship at that time. I probably visited as many Major League team owners as I did our own members that first year. We need to maintain good communications, so that we understand their problems and concerns, and they need to understand ours. I think we have accomplished that. I think my relationship with [MLB commissioner] Bud Selig is as good as people in our two positions has ever been. That's something that works for all of us."
Moore served as president until 2007 and was replaced by Pat O'Conner in January 2008.